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Note: The following rule has been submitted to the Office of the Federal Register for publication.

While USDA-FNS has taken steps to ensure the accuracy of this Internet version of the rule, it is not the
official version. Upon publication in the Federal Register, the official version will be available at
www.federalregister.gov and www.regulations.gov.

Billing Code: 3410-30-P

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food and Nutrition Service

7 CFR Parts 210, 215, 220 and 226

[FNS-2017-0021]

RIN 0584-AE53

Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium

Requirements

AGENCY: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: This final rule will codify, with some extensions, three menu planning

flexibilities temporarily established by the interim final rule of the same title published

November 30, 2017. First, it will broaden the milk options in the National School Lunch

Program and School Breakfast Program by allowing local operators to permanently offer

flavored, low-fat milk. For consistency across nutrition programs, it will also allow

flavored, low-fat milk in the Special Milk Program for Children and in the Child and

Adult Care Food Program for participants ages 6 and older. Second, this final rule will

require that half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole

grain-rich, thus ending the need for the exemption process. Third, it will provide schools

in the lunch and breakfast programs more time for gradual sodium reduction by retaining

Sodium Target 1 through the end of school year (SY) 2023-2024, continuing to Target 2

in SY 2024-2025, and eliminating the Final Target that would have gone into effect in SY

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2022-2023. By codifying these changes, USDA acknowledges the persistent menu

planning challenges experienced by some schools, and affirms its commitment to give

schools more control over food service decisions and greater ability to offer wholesome

and appealing meals that reflect local preferences.

DATES: This rule is effective [insert date 60 days after date of publication in the

Federal Register].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tina Namian, Chief, School

Programs Branch, Policy and Program Development Division, Food and Nutrition

Service, telephone: 703-305-2590.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

This final rule will increase flexibility in the Child Nutrition Program requirements

related to milk, grains, and sodium effective SY 2019-2020, which begins July 1, 2019.

This rule is the culmination of the rulemaking process initiated by the Department of

Agriculture (USDA) following the Secretary’s May 1, 2017, Proclamation affirming

USDA’s commitment to assist schools in overcoming operational challenges related to

the school meals regulations implemented in 2012.

In 2012, USDA updated the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast

Program (SBP) meal requirements to reflect the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans,

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as required by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act in Section 9(a)(4), 42

U.S.C. 1758(a)(4). The implementing regulations 1 increased the availability of fruits,

vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat milk in school meals; required sodium

and saturated fat limits, and zero trans-fat in the weekly school menu; and established

calorie ranges intended to meet part of the age-appropriate calorie needs of children. The

updated requirements were largely based on recommendations issued by the Health and

Medicine Division of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

(formerly, the Institute of Medicine).

With regard to the milk, grains, and sodium requirements, the regulations implemented in

2012:

• Allowed flavoring only in fat-free milk in the NSLP and SBP;

• Required that half of the grains offered in the NSLP be whole grain-rich in SY

2012-2013 and one year later in the SBP; and required that effective SY 2014-

2015, all grains offered in both programs be whole grain-rich (meaning the grain

product contains at least 50 percent whole grains and the remaining grain content

of the product must be enriched); and

• Required schools participating in the NSLP and SBP to gradually reduce the

sodium content of meals offered on average over the school week by meeting

progressively lower sodium targets over a 10-year period.

1Final rule Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (77 FR 4088, January 26,
2012).

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Before and after the regulations were implemented in 2012, USDA offered guidance,

technical assistance resources, and tailored training programs for Program operators in

collaboration with the Institute for Child Nutrition (formerly, National Food Service

Management Institute). Program advocates, the food industry, and other stakeholders also

collaborated with USDA in different ways to assist operators with implementation. This

enabled many operators to adopt most of the changes to the NSLP and SBP meal

patterns. Child nutrition and public health advocates who submitted public comments

noted that children’s eating habits are improving and student participation in the school

meal programs is increasing in many school districts. USDA acknowledges the

significant efforts and progress these schools have achieved. However, the changes are

only truly successful when all of America’s school children eat and enjoy the school

meals.

While some Program operators have had great success in implementing the updated

nutrition standards in a way that encourages healthy eating and participation, some school

meal programs require additional flexibility and support from USDA to meet this goal.

USDA continues to hear from Program operators about persistent challenges with the

milk, grains, and sodium requirements. The challenges identified by operators include

decreased student participation and/or meal consumption, difficulties preparing whole

grain-rich food items, and limited ability to offer appealing meals with lower sodium

content.

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The Secretary of Agriculture acknowledged these challenges in the May 1, 2017,

Proclamation and committed to working with stakeholders to ensure that the milk, grains,

and sodium requirements are practical and result in wholesome and appealing meals.

Subsequently, and consistent with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-

31), USDA issued policy guidance (SP 32-2017, May 22, 2017, School Meal Flexibilities

for School Year 2017-2018) providing milk, whole grains, and sodium flexibilities for

SY 2017-2018 while taking steps to formulate regulatory relief in these areas. USDA’s

policy guidance was followed by the interim final rule Child Nutrition Programs:

Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements (82 FR 56703,

November 30, 2017), which established regulations that extend school meal flexibilities

through SY 2018-2019 and apply the flavored milk flexibility to the Special Milk

Program for Children (SMP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for

participants age 6 and older in SY 2018-2019 only. As a result, the regulations applicable

in SY 2018-2019 provide relief in three specific areas while retaining other essential meal

requirements (e.g., fruit and vegetable quantities, fat restrictions, and calorie ranges) that

contribute to wholesome meals. In brief, for SY 2018-2019, the regulations:

• Provide NSLP and SBP operators the option to offer flavored low-fat (1 percent fat)

milk with the meal and as a beverage for sale during the school day, and apply the

flexibility in the SMP and CACFP for participants age 6 and older;

• Extend the State agencies’ option to allow individual school food authorities to

include grains that are not whole grain-rich in the weekly NSLP and SBP menus; and

• Retain Sodium Target 1 in the NSLP and SBP.

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As discussed in the interim final rule preamble (82 FR 56703, November 30, 2017), there

have been numerous administrative and legislative actions over the last few years to

provide flexibility to schools with regard to the whole grain-rich and sodium

requirements. 2 The interim final rule extended the flexibilities already allowed through

policy guidance (SP 32-2017, May 22, 2017, School Meal Flexibilities for School Year

2017-2018) and previous appropriations legislation (Public Law 112-55, Public Law 113-

235, Public Law 114-113, Public Law 115-31, and Public Law 115-56). In addition, the

interim final rule allowed milk flexibility, without the need to demonstrate hardship, in

all Child Nutrition Programs. Furthermore, the rule asked the public to submit comments

on the long-term availability of the three meal flexibilities.

As a key part of USDA’s regulatory reform agenda, this final rule seeks to ensure that

school meals regulations work for all operators, while reflecting the recommendations of

the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as Section 9(a)(4), 42 U.S.C. 1758(a)(4) requires.

All participating children will continue to have access to fruit, an array of vegetables,

whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat milk, and school meals will continue to provide

appropriate calorie ranges, limited saturated fat, and no added trans-fat. The targeted

modifications in this final rule, effective July 1, 2019 (SY 2019-2020), apply only to the

milk, whole grain-rich, and sodium requirements. This rule demonstrates USDA’s

commitment to alleviate regulatory burdens, provides school nutrition professionals the

flexibility and predictability they repeatedly request to successfully operate the Child

Nutrition Programs, and ensures that Program regulations are practical for all local

2See discussion in the interim final rule Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium
Requirements (82 FR 56703, November 30, 2017).

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providers. This rule will help Program operators provide wholesome and appealing meals

that reflect the Dietary Guidelines and meet the needs and preferences of their

communities. It is important to note that schools are not required to change their menus

and can choose whether or not to use the flexibilities this rule provides.

The public comments that helped inform this final rule are discussed next.

II. Overview of Public Comments and USDA Response

USDA appreciates the significant public interest in the interim final rule Child Nutrition

Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements (82 FR 56703,

November 30, 2017). During the 60-day comment period (November 30, 2017—January

29, 2018), USDA received a total of 86,247 comments, including 53 non-germane

comments and 3 duplicates. All comments, except the non-germane and duplicate

comments, are posted online at www.regulations.gov. See docket FNS-2017-0021, Child

Nutrition: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements.

USDA worked in collaboration with a data analysis company to code and analyze the

public comments using a commercial web-based software product and obtained data

showing support for or opposition to each meal flexibility. The Summary of Public

Comments report is available under the Supporting Documentation tab in docket FNS-

2017-0021.

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The vast majority of the total public submissions were form letters. There were 16 form

letter campaigns, which comprised 84,453 form letter copies. These comments were

submitted by individuals participating in letter campaigns organized primarily by

MomsRising, the American Heart Association Sodium Reduction Initiative, Salud

America!, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. These form letters were mostly from

parents and other individuals urging USDA to retain strong nutrition requirements for

school meals.

In addition to the form letter copies, there were 1,738 unique submissions that provided

substantive comments on issues specific to the three menu planning flexibilities and were

therefore very useful in informing the development of this final rule. These unique

comments, which included the master letter for each of the form letter campaigns,

reflected a wide range of opinions—support, opposition, and mixed comments on each of

the flexibilities. These comments were submitted by individuals, school district

personnel, students, healthcare professionals, parents/guardians, dietitians/nutritionists,

policy advocacy organizations, professional associations, State agency directors,

trade/industry associations, nutrition/anti-hunger advocates, school nutrition advocacy

organizations, academics/researchers, and the food industry. For example, stakeholders

that submitted unique comments include: the School Nutrition Association, State

agencies, School Superintendents Association, Council of Great City Schools, American

Public Health Association, American Heart Association, Center for Science in the Public

Interest, MomsRising, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Food

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Research & Action Center, American Commodity Distribution Association, Grocery

Manufacturers Association, General Mills, and Mars, Incorporated.

The following tables show tallies of the total and unique comments received for each of

the meal flexibilities addressed in the interim final rule:

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Milk Flexibility

% of all % of unique milk


Count of milk comments Count of
Commenter
comments received unique milk comments
Position
received comments (181)
(86,247)

Support 36 Less than 1% 36 19.9%

Oppose 5,441 6% 84 46.4%

Mixed 69 Less than 1% 61 33.7%

Milk
5,546 6% 181 100%
Submissions

Whole Grain-Rich Flexibility

Count of % of all
Count of % of unique
Commenter grains comments
unique grains grain comments
Position comments received
comments (217)
received (86,247)

Support 43 Less than 1% 43 19.8%

Oppose 83,767 97% 122 56.2%

Mixed 523 Less than 1% 52 24.0%

Grains
84,333 98% 217 100%
Submissions

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Sodium Flexibility

Count of % of all
Count of % of unique
Commenter sodium comments
received unique sodium sodium comments
Position comments
comments (229)
received (86,247)

Support 550 Less than 1% 79 34.5%

Oppose 83,152 96% 132 57.6%

Mixed 18 Less than 1% 18 7.9%

Sodium
83,720 97% 229 100%
Submissions

In general, commenters in favor of the flexibilities argued that these provide more menu

planning options for schools and thus enhance their ability to offer wholesome and

appealing meals. They stated that the flexibilities will lead to increased meal

consumption and better health outcomes for students. The School Nutrition Association,

representing 57,000 members, urged USDA to adopt a permanent solution to operational

challenges rather than temporary rules and annual waivers.

Commenters opposed to the flexibilities argued that these are not needed because most

schools report being in compliance with the meal patterns, and the flexibilities could

restrain schools’ progress in increasing whole grains and reducing sodium intake. Many

expressed interest in retaining the meal patterns as implemented in 2012, and stated their

concern about children’s continued access to wholesome school meals and the need to

help children develop positive dietary habits for life.

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In addition to specific comments about the milk, whole grain-rich, and sodium

flexibilities, commenters provided general feedback on the interim final rule. The

following table shows tallies of the general comments received in support of and against

the meal flexibilities addressed in the interim final rule. Many of the opposing comments

were submitted as part of the form letter campaigns described above:

General Feedback on Milk, Whole Grain-Rich, and Sodium Flexibilities


General Support
Themes Count of comments % of all comments
received received (86,247)
Positive health impacts for 20 Less than 1%
children
Increase meal consumption and 90 Less than 1%
decrease food waste
Relieve industry of meal pattern 4 Less than 1%
compliance challenges (e.g.
product development)
Reduce compliance burden for 20 Less than 1%
Program operators
Other general support 60 Less than 1%
General Opposition
Themes Count of comments % of all comments
received received (86,247)
Negative health impacts for 6,830 8%
children
Negative impacts on children’s 1,190 1.4%
ability to access healthy meals
Flexibilities are not needed (e.g. 83,080 96%
widespread compliance with
existing standards)
Inconsistent with Dietary 260 Less than 1%
Guidelines for Americans
Other general opposition 290 Less than 1%

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After careful consideration of all stakeholders’ comments, USDA believes that school

nutrition operators have made the case that this final rule’s targeted regulatory flexibility

is practical and necessary for efficient Program operation. The targeted regulatory

flexibility will improve student participation without a detrimental effect on the overall

quality of the meals offered to children. Some commenters opposed to the flexibilities

voiced concerns about the potential impact of the flexibilities on various segments of the

student population. USDA is addressing these concerns separately in the Civil Rights

Impact Analysis, which is available under the Supporting Documentation tab in docket

FNS-2017-0021.

The following is a high-level summary of the flexibilities as stated in the interim final

rule (82 FR 56703, November 30, 2017), the key concerns and arguments expressed by

commenters, and USDA’s response. Miscellaneous comments regarding food quantities,

meal costs, calorie limits, and other topics unrelated to the flexibilities in the interim final

rule are not discussed in this preamble, but are included in the Summary of Public

Comments report.

Prior to publication of the interim final rule, USDA received 580 postcards expressing

opposition to the flexibilities as stated in the Secretary’s May 1, 2017, Proclamation.

These postcards were not submitted in response to the interim final rule and, therefore,

were not included in the comment analysis or as part of the public record for this

rulemaking. They would not, in any event, alter the agency’s final conclusions herein.

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Milk Flexibility

In SY 2018-2019, the interim final rule:

• Allows schools to offer flavored, low-fat milk in the NSLP (including as a

beverage for sale during the school day) and the SBP (7 CFR 210.10(d)(1)(i); 7

CFR 210.11(m)(1)(ii), (m)(2)(ii) and (m)(3)(ii); and 7 CFR 220.8(d));

• Allows flavored, low-fat milk in the Special Milk Program for Children (SMP)

for children ages 6 and older (7 CFR 215.7a(a)(3)); and

• Allows flavored, low-fat milk in the Child and Adult Care Food Program

(CACFP) for children ages 6 and older and adults (7 CFR 226.20(a)(1(iii) and

(iv); and 7 CFR 226.20(c)(1), (2) and (3)).

Comments in Support

Commenters in support of the milk flexibility included individuals, a school nutrition

organization, State agencies, food manufacturers, and trade associations. Supporters

generally expressed concern related to the decline in children’s milk consumption. They

argued that allowing flavored, low-fat milk will provide schools more menu planning

options, promote students’ milk consumption, and lead to better health outcomes.

A nutritionist, healthcare professional, and food manufacturer stated that allowing

flavored, low-fat milk will increase milk consumption and result in greater intake of

essential nutrients such as vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium. A healthcare professional

and members of academia stated that the minor increase in calories from flavored, low-fat

milk could be offset with appropriate menu planning. A dairy trade association asserted

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that the net increase in calories between fat-free and low-fat, flavored milk is small due to

progress made by dairy processors in reducing the calories in flavored milk. According to

the commenter, milk processors have reduced the calorie and added sugar content of

flavored milk between SY 2006-2007 and SY 2015-2016 by more than 9 grams per

serving (or 55 percent) in chocolate milk produced for the school market.

A State agency suggested that the flexibility should be offered across all Federal Child

Nutrition Programs for consistency. A few commenters offered suggestions unrelated to

the milk flexibility, such as allowing schools to offer non-dairy milk options, and

eliminating all fat limits on fluid milk offered in schools.

Comments in Opposition

Commenters opposed to the milk flexibility included parents and individuals, public

health practitioners, and nutrition advocates. These commenters generally expressed

health concerns related to added sugar in flavored milk. They argued that offering

flavored, low-fat milk contradicts expert nutrition recommendations and could lead to

increased sugar, fat, and calorie intake by children in the near and long term. They argued

that schools offering flavored, low-fat milk may have to offer less food to offset the extra

calories associated with this option, and said that school meals with flavored low-fat milk

could exceed the weekly calorie ranges while offering no additional nutritional benefit.

Others stated that the milk flexibility is unnecessary because students seem to accept

unflavored, low-fat milk and unflavored/flavored, fat-free milk.

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Several commenters argued that the milk flexibility as stated in the interim final rule is

inconsistent with congressional intent because it does not require school districts to

demonstrate a reduction in student milk consumption or an increase in school milk waste,

which is specified in Section 747(c) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.

A policy advocacy organization argued that, because milk is consumed so frequently by

children, restricting flavor to fat-free milk helps decrease the amount of saturated fat in

children’s diets. The commenter also commended USDA for continuing to prohibit

flavored milk for children under six years old.

A few individuals and public advocacy organizations also opposed allowing flavored,

low-fat milk as a competitive beverage for sale in schools. They stated that, because

schools are largely prohibited from selling most sugar-sweetened beverages on campus

during the school day, there is no longer a need to offer flavored milk as an appealing

option relative to other beverages with higher sugar content.

Mixed Response

A few commenters expressed conditional support or opposition, or offered suggestions

for improving the interim final rule. For example, a State agency in favor of the milk

flexibility recommended that USDA include a requirement that at least one type of

unflavored milk be available at the meal service.

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Several commenters opposed to the milk flexibility recommended that if USDA allows

flavored, low-fat milk, a calorie limit of no more than 130 calories per 8 ounce serving

should be established, consistent with the Robert Wood Johnson’s Healthy Eating

Research Healthier Beverage Guidelines. A few individuals and school district personnel

suggested that USDA allow reduced fat (2%) milk or whole milk for health reasons rather

than provide flexibility to offer flavored, low-fat or non-fat milk.

USDA Response

Beginning SY 2019-2020, this final rule will provide NSLP and SBP operators with the

option to offer flavored, low-fat milk and require that unflavored milk be offered at each

meal service. For consistency, the flavored, low-fat milk option will be extended to

beverages for sale during the school day, and will also apply in the SMP and CACFP for

participants ages 6 and older. We recognize that regulatory consistency across programs,

a long-time practice at USDA, facilitates program administration and operation at the

State and local levels, fosters customer support, and meets customers’ expectations. The

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) currently allows flavored, low-fat milk with

summer meals so this rule makes no change to milk service in the SFSP.

By broadening the flavored milk choices in the Child Nutrition Programs, USDA seeks to

remove regulatory restrictions that may hinder milk consumption. USDA’s decision to

expand the milk choices is based on stakeholders’ concerns over decreasing milk

consumption in the U.S. population. Data from USDA’s Economic Research Service

shows a decrease in fluid milk consumption from 197 pounds per person in 2000 to 154

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pounds per person in 2016. 3 Chobani, General Mills, and the Grocery Manufacturers

Association cited this data in their comments. Commenters suggested that allowing

flavored low-fat milk, a popular item among children, could help improve children’s

consumption of milk, an important source of calcium, vitamin D (for products fortified

with vitamin D), and potassium. Further, commenters such as the National Milk

Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association noted that milk

processors have significantly reduced the calorie and sugar content of flavored milk in

recent years. Commenters noted that flavoring and a moderate amount of sweetener

increases palatability, without compromising the positive nutritional impacts of milk

consumption.

For operational efficiency, operators will be allowed to serve flavored low-fat milk

without the need to demonstrate hardship. This will relieve schools from submitting

written justification and evidence (e.g., meal count records, photos, etc.) to the State

agency to demonstrate financial hardship, such as a drop in meal counts or an increase in

food waste. USDA is removing this operational burden for State and local operators to

streamline procedures given the interest in this milk option. For SY 2017-2018, a total of

578 school food authorities (about 3 percent of all school food authorities operating the

school meal programs) submitted flavored, low-fat milk exemption requests based on

hardship, and State agencies approved 562 of those requests.

3
U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Dairy products: Per capita consumption,
United States (Annual). September 2017. Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/dairy-data/.

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Eliminating the need to demonstrate hardship is consistent with the underlying statutory

authority. The provision cited by commenters, Section 747(c) of the Consolidated

Appropriations Act, 2017, expires with the 2017-2018 school year, whereas this rule is

effective with the 2019-2020 school year. Further, under section 9(a)(2) of the National

School Lunch Act, students must be provided with a variety of fluid milk and milk may

be flavored or unflavored; there is no statutory requirement to demonstrate hardship in

order to serve low-fat, flavored milk.

A comment from a State agency recommended that the milk flexibility include the

requirement that operators offer unflavored milk at each meal service, in addition to any

flavored milk offered. USDA agrees with this recommendation. Therefore, upon

implementation of this rule, NSLP and SBP operators that choose to offer flavored milk

must also offer unflavored milk (fat-free or low-fat) at the same meal service. This

requirement will ensure that milk variety in the NSLP and SBP is not limited to flavored

milk choices. It is expected to help schools that choose to offer flavored milk in their

menus stay within the weekly dietary specifications. USDA believes that most schools

would continue to offer unflavored milk at each meal service to meet parents’

expectations, even if offering unflavored milk was not a requirement.

USDA recognizes the importance of having unflavored milk as a choice for students at

each lunch and breakfast service. Many comments from parents, public health

practitioners, and nutrition advocates voiced concerns over added sugars in the school

meals and expressed a strong interest in retaining children’s access to unflavored milk.

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We are aware that parents may want their children to drink unflavored milk at lunch and

breakfast (e.g., with breakfast cereal). In addition, many State agencies have promoted

unflavored milk in the NSLP and SBP as every edition of the Dietary Guidelines for

Americans since 1980 has recommended reducing sugar intake. We note that the

requirement to ensure that unflavored milk is available on the school menu will not apply

in the NSLP afterschool snack service, the SMP, or the CACFP consistent with existing

Program requirements. These meal services do not have a requirement to offer a variety

of fluid milk as they are smaller in size and resources than the lunch and breakfast

services.

Some commenters recommended calorie limits for individual servings of flavored, low-

fat milk (no more than 130 calories per 8 ounce serving). Since the NSLP and SBP

calorie limits apply to the meals offered on average over the school week, this final rule

will not set calorie limits for individual servings of flavored, low-fat milk. However,

school food authorities that choose to offer flavored, low-fat milk are encouraged to

obtain relevant information, such as the Robert Wood Johnson’s Healthy Eating Research

Healthier Beverage Guidelines, to inform procurement decisions. In addition, school food

authorities that choose to offer flavored, low-fat milk should plan menus carefully to

ensure that the weekly meals stay within the required calorie and saturated fat limits, and

consult with their State agency as necessary to make proper menu adjustments.

Some commenters stated that the milk flexibility is unnecessary because most students

seem to have accepted the 2012 provision that limits flavor to fat-free milk. While USDA

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acknowledges that many school food authorities have incorporated the 2012 meal

patterns, USDA agrees with the Program operators who commented that expanding milk

choices will likely improve student participation in the school meals programs and

increase milk consumption. Offering flavored, low-fat milk expands the options available

to schools to meet the milk requirement. Schools can choose to pursue this flavored milk

option, or not, based on local preference. USDA encourages parents and students to

provide feedback to their school food service operators regarding the menus and food

products offered to students at lunch and breakfast (see existing provision at 7 CFR

210.12(a)).

The local school wellness policy, 7 CFR 210.31, also provides students, parents and

interested community members an important opportunity to influence the school nutrition

environment at large. In addition, as allowed in 7 CFR 210.19(e), State agencies have

discretion to set stricter requirements that are not inconsistent with the minimum nutrition

standards for school meals.

Accordingly, this final rule will amend the following milk provisions effective SY 2019-

2020:

• NSLP (7 CFR 210.10(d)(1)(i); 7 CFR 210.11(m)(1)(ii), (m)(2)(ii) and (m)(3)(ii));

• SBP (7 CFR 220.8(d));

• SMP (7 CFR 215.7(a)(3)); and

• CACFP (7 CFR 226.20(a)(1)(iii) and (iv), and 7 CFR 226.20(c)(1), (2) and (3)).

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Whole Grain-Rich Flexibility

The interim final rule provides State agencies through SY 2018-2019 discretion to grant

exemptions to the whole grain-rich requirement to school food authorities that

demonstrate hardship. School food authorities receiving an exemption must offer at least

half of the weekly grains as whole grain-rich. (7 CFR 210.10(c)(2)(iv)(B) and 7 CFR

220.8(c)(2)(iv)(B)).

Comments in Support

Several commenters, including a food industry association, school district personnel, and

individual commenters, reasoned that whole grain-rich exemptions should be allowed

because some products (e.g., pasta, bread, sushi rice, tortillas, and biscuits) and regional

products (e.g., grits in the South), are not acceptable to students in a whole grain-rich

form. Other commenters, including food industry commenters, a healthcare professional,

and an individual from academia, stated that it is necessary to allow the food industry

sufficient time to develop solutions to the whole grain-rich challenges and provide

operators more time to address preparation issues and develop menus and recipes that are

acceptable to students. Some school district personnel said that the “hot held for service”

practices in the food service make using some whole grain-rich products (e.g., pasta)

difficult. Other commenters noted that they found the exemption process too

burdensome, and felt that a more flexible regulatory requirement would be simpler than

extending the existing process. A number of commenters, including school district

personnel, said the flexibility will result in lower costs and reduced food waste.

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Comments in Opposition

Many commenters, including advocacy organizations, healthcare professionals, and form

letters submitted by individuals, stated that the whole grain-rich flexibility should not be

allowed because of the public health benefits associated with the consumption of whole

grains. Commenters argued that schools should provide the healthiest foods possible,

including whole grain-rich foods, because school meals may be the only wholesome

meals available to some segments of the student population. Several commenters

expressed opposition to the whole grain-rich flexibility, reasoning that school meals help

educate children about healthy eating for life.

Advocacy organizations, professional associations, healthcare professionals, and

individuals said there is no need for the whole grain-rich flexibility because a significant

percentage of schools are complying with the requirement and have not requested

exemptions. Rather than exemptions, several commenters recommended that USDA

provide additional training and technical assistance.

Mixed Response

Some commenters expressed conditional support or opposition, or offered suggestions for

improving the interim final rule. A school nutrition organization, school district

personnel, State agencies, professional associations, an advocacy organization, and

individual commenters suggested that instead of extending the existing whole grain-rich

flexibility, USDA should set a more flexible regulatory requirement for whole grains.

Recommendations included the following:

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• Requiring that at least half of the grains offered in the weekly menu be whole grain-

rich;

• Requiring that at least 75 percent of the grains offered in the weekly menu be whole

grain-rich; and

• Allowing one non-whole grain-rich menu item in the weekly menu.

In general, these commenters noted the exemption request process, which was

legislatively required, is burdensome for school food authorities and State agencies.

USDA Response

Beginning SY 2019-2020, this final rule will require that at least half of the weekly grains

offered in the NSLP and SBP meet the whole grain-rich criteria specified in FNS

guidance, and that the remaining grain items offered must be enriched. This decision,

recommended by the School Nutrition Association, representing 57,000 school nutrition

professionals, is consistent with USDA’s commitment to alleviate difficult regulatory

requirements, simplify operational procedures, and provide school food authorities ample

flexibility to address local preferences. By setting a more feasible whole grain-rich

requirement in the NSLP and SBP, school districts nationwide are expected to

incorporate whole grains easily while still providing menu items that meet local

preferences. This change will remove the need for whole grain-rich exemption requests

based on hardship, which many commenters, including State and local Program

operators, described as burdensome.

24
The requirement to offer exclusively whole grain-rich products proved impractical for

many school districts and, due to a long history of administrative and legislative actions

allowing exemptions, it was never fully implemented nationwide. Seeking to assist

operators, USDA allowed enriched pasta exemptions for SYs 2014-2015 and 2015-2016,

and Congress expanded the pasta flexibility to include other grain products. Through

successive legislative action, Congress directed the USDA to allow State agencies to

grant individual whole grain-rich exemptions (Section 751 of the Consolidated and

Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235); and Section 733 of the

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113)). In addition, Section 747 of the

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31) (2017 Appropriations Act)

provided flexibilities related to whole grains for SY 2017-2018. Most recently, Section

101(a)(1) of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018, Division D of the Continuing

Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief

Requirements Act, 2017, P.L. 115-56, enacted September 8, 2017, extended the

flexibilities provided by section 747 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017

through December 8, 2017. The 2017 Appropriations Act provided authority for whole

grain-rich exemptions through the end of SY 2017-2018, and the interim final rule (82

FR 56703) extends the availability of exemptions through SY 2018-2019. Despite all of

these administrative and legislative actions, some school food authorities continue to

experience challenges. Nevertheless, for SY 2017-2018, a total of 4,297 school food

authorities (about 23 percent of school food authorities operating the school meal

programs) submitted whole grain-rich exemption requests based on hardship, and nearly

all (4,124) received exemption approval from their State agency.

25
USDA recognizes that it is not feasible to operate these nationwide programs in an ad hoc

fashion, with recurrent exemptions, without giving operators and the food industry a

workable regulatory solution that provides the long-term certainty they need for food

procurement and product reformulation. At the same time, USDA is mindful of

commenters’ concerns about the health and dietary habits of children, and agrees that

schools should provide the healthiest foods possible. The whole grain-rich requirement in

this final rule is a minimum standard, not a maximum, and reflects in a practical and

feasible way the Dietary Guidelines’ emphasis on whole grains consumption. Requiring

that at least half of the weekly grains offered in the NSLP and SBP be whole grain-rich is

a minimum standard that schools have already accomplished and is highly achievable,

supported by the School Nutrition Association, and provides exceptional flexibility for

local operators in planning wholesome and appealing school meals.

By re-implementing the whole grain-rich requirement that was in place from SY 2012-

2013 through SY 2013-2014, USDA recognizes the nutritional benefits of whole grains

as well as the need for gradual adjustments in school menu planning, procurement, and

food service equipment. USDA expects that many schools will continue to provide a

significant portion of their grain products each week in the form of whole grain-rich

foods as they are currently required to do so. As noted above, at least half of the grains

offered weekly must be whole grain-rich, and the other grain items offered must be

enriched.

26
USDA encourages Program operators to incorporate whole grain-rich products in the

school menu when possible, especially in popular menu items such as pizza. USDA will

continue to provide training and technical assistance resources to assist in these efforts. In

addition, USDA Foods will continue to make whole grain-rich products easily available

to Program operators. For example, whole grain or whole grain-rich USDA Foods

available to schools for SY 2018-2019 include flour, rolled oats, pancakes, tortillas, and

several varieties of pasta and rice. Requiring that half of the weekly grains be whole

grain-rich is intended to set a floor and not a ceiling. Schools already offering all grains

as whole grain-rich do not have to change their menus as a result of this final rule.

As stated earlier, 7 CFR 210.19(e) allows State agencies discretion to set additional

requirements that are not inconsistent with the minimum nutrition standards for school

meals. For example, State agencies could require school food authorities to offer whole

grain-rich products for four days in the school week (or approximately 80 percent of the

weekly meals), thus allowing enriched grains one day each week, as suggested by a

commenter. At the local level, 7 CFR 210.12(a) allows students, parents and community

members to influence menu planning by providing ideas on the use of whole grain-rich

products in the weekly menu. The local school wellness policy (7 CFR 210.31) also

provides an important opportunity to influence the school nutrition environment at large.

Accordingly, this final rule will amend the following grains provisions effective SY

2019-2020:

• NSLP (7 CFR 210.10(c)(2)(iv)(B)); and

27
• SBP (7 CFR 220.8(c)(2)(iv)(B)).

Sodium Flexibility

The interim final rule retained Sodium Target 1 in the NSLP and SBP through SY 2018-

2019 (7 CFR 210.10(f)(3) and 7 CFR 220.8(f), respectively), and requested comments on

the long-term availability of this flexibility. It also retained Target 2 and the final target

as part of the sodium reduction timeline.

Comments in Support

School personnel and individual commenters spoke about the work done by school food

service professionals, manufacturers, and vendors in striving to meet Sodium Target 1.

These commenters also expressed concern about the acceptance of meals with lower

sodium content by students, who are accustomed to eating foods with higher sodium

content outside of school. Trade associations, a healthcare professional, and a nutritionist

said that extending Sodium Target 1 through SY 2018-2019 is necessary as there are

challenges in reducing sodium across the food supply.

Several commenters stated that schools not equipped for “scratch” cooking rely heavily

on processed/manufactured foods; therefore, these commenters think it is appropriate to

extend Target 1 until the food industry is able to develop palatable products with lower

sodium content. Other commenters and a professional association argued that there is no

conclusive scientific evidence to support the benefits of further sodium reduction in

school meals, and there is uncertainty about the long-term effects on child or teen

development and overall health.

28
Trade associations, a healthcare professional, and a nutritionist said extending Sodium

Target 1 is important to accommodate the ongoing update of the current Dietary

Reference Intakes (DRI) for sodium and potassium. The DRIs, a set of reference values

used to plan and assess the diets of healthy individuals and groups, are updated

periodically as needed. The commenters said USDA should wait for the DRI review

currently underway by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

(NASEM) before taking further action on sodium reduction. NASEM DRI review of

sodium and potassium began in fall 2017 and a draft report is expected by spring 2019.

See more information about the DRIs at https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/dietary-reference-

intakes.

A State agency and trade associations supported extending Target 1 through at least the

end of SY 2020-2021. A school nutrition organization and school district personnel

supported retaining Target 1 as the final sodium target and eliminating the other sodium

targets.

A professional association and policy advocacy organization stated that Target 3 (the

final target) is fundamentally unattainable. They expressed concern that the final sodium

target relies on changes to manufacturing processes that could use technologies or

chemical substitutes that pose greater health risks than the sodium they would replace.

Comments in Opposition

29
Many individual commenters participating in form letter campaigns, a State agency,

policy advocacy organizations, and professional associations expressed concern that the

sodium flexibility will lead to negative health effects in children, such as increased risk of

high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. A policy advocacy organization

said lowering sodium consumption, and thereby reducing the risk of high blood pressure,

can substantially reduce public health costs.

Commenters also asserted that there is no need for sodium flexibility because Sodium

Target 2 is achievable and many school districts are working toward or already providing

wholesome and appealing meals with less sodium. A policy advocacy association said

that several food companies, such as Aramark, General Mills, Kraft-Heinz, Mars Food,

Nestle, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, Subway, Panera, and Unilever, have been leaders in

voluntary sodium reduction and, therefore, there are more products with healthier levels

of sodium readily available in the marketplace. A food manufacturer stated that its

commitment to developing a range of lower sodium options demonstrates the industry’s

ability to be a productive partner in addressing crucial public health problems. Other

commenters expressed concern that extending the Target I flexibility could lead industry

to halt reformulation and innovation efforts, and discourage school efforts to continue

sodium reduction.

Some commenters expressed concern that extending Target 1 moves meal requirements

away from evidenced-based dietary guidance. A policy advocacy organization stated that

the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act requires that school meals be aligned

30
with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and continuing to delay implementation of

the sodium targets creates inconsistency with the law. In addition, policy advocacy

associations, professional associations, and individuals participating in form letter

campaigns opposed extending Target 1 until SY 2020-2021, stating it would harm

children’s health. Many commenters stated that, rather than delaying the sodium targets,

USDA should address remaining challenges by providing operators targeted training,

technical assistance, and demonstrated strategies and best practices.

Mixed Response

Some commenters provided mixed feedback on the flexibility, including conditional

support or opposition, or suggestions for improvement. A food bank supported the

retention of Target 1 through the end of SY 2018-2019, but asserted that school districts

should be encouraged to procure and introduce lower sodium foods in preparation for the

implementation of Target 2. A school advocacy organization encouraged USDA to

implement Target 2 “at a future date.” Two chapters of a school nutrition organization

that supported the Target 1 flexibility also suggested eventual implementation of Target

2. A professional association and policy advocacy organization supported delaying

Target 2 and recommended that Target 2 should be the final target. The commenters also

recommended that USDA re-evaluate Target 2 in light of science-based research and the

DRI for sodium.

USDA Response

31
This final rule will provide schools in the NSLP and SBP more time for gradual sodium

reduction by retaining Sodium Target 1 through the end of SY 2023-2024, requiring

compliance with Sodium Target 2 in SY 2024-2025 (which begins July 1, 2024; see

charts), and eliminating the Final Target that would have gone into effect in SY 2022-

2023.

National School Lunch Program


Sodium Timeline & Limits

Target 1: Target 2:
Age/Grade July 1, 2014 July 1, 2024
Group SY 2014-2015 SY 2024-2025
(mg) (mg)

K-5 < 1,230 < 935


6-8 < 1,360 < 1,035
9-12 < 1,420 < 1,080

School Breakfast Program


Sodium Timeline & Limits

Target 1: Target 2:
Age/Grade July 1, 2014 July 1, 2024
Group SY 2014-2015- SY 2024-2025
(mg) (mg)

K-5 < 540 < 485

6-8 < 600 < 535

9-12 < 640 < 570

32
In developing this final rule, USDA was mindful of the review of the DRIs for sodium

and potassium intake currently underway by The National Academies of Sciences,

Engineering, and Medicine. Some commenters said that USDA should extend Target 1 to

accommodate the DRI review, which will inform the public on goals for long-term

sodium reduction. In addition, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans are expected to

be released by the end of calendar year 2020. USDA agrees that it is reasonable to extend

Target 1, delay Target 2 implementation, and refrain from setting sodium reduction goals

beyond Target 2 until the DRI report and the 2020 Dietary Guidelines are published and

USDA has the opportunity to assess their impact on school meals. In retaining Target 2,

USDA is recognizing the need for further sodium reduction. However, delaying

implementation of Target 2 until July 1, 2024, will ensure that USDA has the time

necessary to make any regulatory adjustments based on the most current scientific

recommendations, including providing adequate notice to stakeholders of any such

adjustments. In the meantime, the sodium timeline established by this rule will provide

schools and the food industry the regulatory certainty they need to conduct food

procurement and product reformulation activities. We recognize that regulatory certainty

is essential to incentivize the food industry’s efforts to support the service of wholesome

and appealing school meals.

Extending Target 1 is also important for practical reasons. As noted by several

commenters, many schools are not equipped for scratch cooking, which makes further

sodium reduction challenging. Setting a more flexible approach to sodium reduction

33
allows more time for product reformulation, school menu adjustments, food service

changes, personnel training, and changes in student preferences. State agencies that

commented on the sodium timeline generally noted that school districts need more time

for sodium reduction.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to note that the sodium limit applies to the average

meal offered during the school week; it does not apply per day or per meal. Menu

planners may offer a relatively high sodium meal or high sodium food at some point

during the week if meals with lower to moderate sodium content are offered the rest of

the week.

USDA remains committed to strong nutrition standards for school meals, consistent with

the statutory requirement that school meals reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Our intention is to ensure that the sodium targets reflect the most current Dietary

Guidelines for Americans and DRIs, are feasible for most schools, and allow them to plan

appealing meals that encourage consumption and intake of key nutrients that are essential

for children’s growth and development. USDA also shares commenter concerns that

near-term implementation of further sodium reduction in schools could potentially lower

the acceptance of meals with lower sodium content by students, who are currently

accustomed to eating foods with higher sodium content outside of school. This could

negatively impact program participation and contribute to food waste.

34
We acknowledge that since 2012 schools have made significant efforts to reduce the

sodium content of meals. We encourage families and communities to support schools’

efforts by taking gradual steps to reduce the sodium content of meals offered to children

outside of schools. Wholesome school meals are only a part of children’s daily food

intake, and children will be more likely to eat them if the foods available to them at home

and in the community are also lower in sodium. Helping students adjust their taste

preferences requires collaboration between schools, parents, and communities. As stated

earlier, student, parent, and community involvement in menu planning is allowed at 7

CFR 210.12(a). The local school wellness policy at 7 CFR 210.31 also provides an

important opportunity to influence the school nutrition environment at large.

State agencies whose school food authorities are close to meeting Target 2 may wish to

continue their trajectory and implement Target 2 before the required timeline. As allowed

in 7 CFR 210.19(e), State agencies have the ability to set stricter requirements that are

not inconsistent with the minimum nutrition standards for school meals. USDA will

continue to provide Program operators with technical assistance, training resources, and

mentoring to help them offer the best possible meals. In addition, USDA Foods will

continue to provide food products with no added salt and/or low sodium content for

inclusion in school meals.

This final rule provides flexibility to address sodium challenges and sets a new timeline

to build on the progress made. It is intended to address commenters’ concerns regarding

student acceptability and consumption of meals with lower sodium content, food service

35
operational issues, food industry’s reformulation and innovation challenges, and the

important goal to safeguard the health of millions of school children. This final rule

balances nutrition science, practical application of requirements, and the need to ensure

that children receive wholesome and appealing meals.

Accordingly, this final rule will amend the following sodium provisions effective SY

2019-2020:

• NSLP (7 CFR 210.10(f)(3)); and

• SBP (7 CFR 220.8(f)).

Procedural Matters

Executive Order 12866 and 13563

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all costs and benefits of

available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory

approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental,

public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563

emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of

harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. This final rule has been determined to be

significant and was reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in

conformance with Executive Order 12866.

Economic Summary

36
A regulatory impact analysis (RIA) must be prepared for major rules with economically

significant effects ($100 million or more in any one year). USDA does not anticipate that

this final rule is likely to have an economic impact of $100 million or more in any one

year, and therefore, does not meet the definition of “economically significant” under

Executive Order 12866. The RIA for an earlier final rule, Nutrition Standards in the

National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (77 FR 4088, January 26, 2012),

underscores the importance of recognizing the linkage between poor diets and health

problems such as childhood obesity. In addition to the impacts on the health of children,

the RIA also cites information regarding the social costs of obesity and the additional

economic costs associated with direct medical expenses of obesity. The RIA for the 2012

rule included a literature review to describe qualitatively the benefits of a nutritious diet

to combat obesity and did not estimate individual health benefits or decreased medical

costs that could be directly attributed to the changes in the final rule, due to the complex

nature of factors that impact food consumption and obesity. 4 USDA believes the specific

flexibilities in this final rule are intended to ease Program operator burden while ensuring

the majority of the changes resulting from the 2012 regulation remain intact.

The Secretary of Agriculture acknowledged the operational challenges in meeting the

meal standards related to flavored milk, whole grain-rich products, and sodium targets in

the May 1, 2017, Proclamation and committed to working with stakeholders to ensure

4 https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-26/pdf/2012-1010.pdf: “Because of the complexity of factors that


contribute both to overall food consumption and to obesity, we are not able to define a level of disease or cost reduction
that is attributable to the changes in meals expected to result from implementation of the rule. As the rule is projected to
make substantial improvements in meals served to more than half of all school-aged children on an average school day,
we judge that the likelihood is reasonable that the benefits of the rule exceed the costs, and that the final rule thus
represents a cost-effective means of conforming NSLP and SBP regulations to the statutory requirements for school
meals.”

37
that school meal requirements are practical and result in wholesome and appealing meals.

The interim final rule Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and

Sodium Requirements (82 FR 56703, November 30, 2017), established regulations that

extend the school meal flexibilities through SY 2018-2019. For SY 2018-2019, the

regulations provide NSLP and SBP operators the option to offer flavored low-fat (1

percent fat) milk with the meal and as a beverage for sale during the school day, and

apply the flexibility in the SMP and CACFP for participants age 6 years and older;

extend the State agencies’ option to allow individual school food authorities to include

grains that are not whole grain-rich in the weekly NSLP and SBP menus; and retain

Sodium Target 1 in the NSLP and SBP.

This final rule makes specific modifications to the milk, grain, and sodium requirements

beginning in SY 2019-2020. The purpose of this rule is to ease operational burden and

provide school nutrition professionals the flexibility needed to successfully operate the

Child Nutrition Programs. This final rule makes the following changes beginning in SY

2019-2020:

• Allow NSLP and SBP operators the option to offer flavored low-fat milk and

require that unflavored milk be offered at each meal service. For consistency, the

flavored milk flexibility will be extended to beverages for sale during the school

day, and will also apply in the SMP and CACFP for participants ages 6 years and

older. This flexibility will not apply to the Summer Food Service Program as

flavored low-fat milk is already allowed in that Program.

38
• Require that at least half of the weekly grains offered in the NSLP and SBP be

whole grain-rich.

• Retain Sodium Target 1 through the end of SY 2023-2024 and require compliance

with Sodium Target 2 in SY 2024-2025, which begins July 1, 2024.

USDA expects the health benefits of the meal standards, which are mainly left intact, to

be similar to the overall benefits of improving the diets of children cited in the RIA for

the 2012 meal standards rule. While the changes in this final rule provide flexibilities to

the 2012 regulations, the targeted nature of the three specific changes addresses persistent

Program operator and stakeholder challenges with milk, grain, and sodium requirements.

Program operators may exceed these minimum requirements and must continue to meet

the same caloric and fat limits specified in the 2012 rule. The nation’s students will

continue to benefit from the suite of changes in the 2012 regulations and the health

benefits qualitatively described in the 2012 RIA still apply.

As explained above, this final rule eases the operational challenges associated with these

three requirements while balancing the nutrition science, as stated in the Dietary

Guidelines for Americans, and the Program operator’s ability to comply with the overall

standards and the importance of ensuring children receive wholesome and appealing

meals. These challenges were cited during a period of decreased meal consumption and

Program participation, and some Program operators reported offering meals that did not

appeal to children. The USDA Special Nutrition Program Operations Studies for SYs

2012-2013 and 2013-2014 suggested that, as with any major change, there were some

39
challenges. During the initial years of implementation of the 2012 school meal

regulations, nearly one third of SFAs reported challenges finding products to meet the

updated nutrition standards. For example, food costs, student acceptance, and the

availability of products meeting the standards were the primary challenges anticipated in

implementing the whole grain-rich requirement in full. 5 According to USDA

administrative data, the largest decrease in NSLP lunch participation occurred in FY

2013 (-3%) which was the first fiscal year the standards went into effect. This decrease

was driven by a substantial decrease in the paid lunch category. While paid lunch

participation had decreased since 2008, the drop in 2013 was the largest decrease in over

20 years. There were other changes implemented during this timeframe, most notably the

requirement to incrementally increase paid lunch prices; however some of the drop may

have been due to students choosing not to participate due to the new meal standards. Paid

lunch participation continues to decline but at a slower rate in recent years. Total

participation has remained relatively stable for the past 3 years. While there have been

many successes in the implementation of the 2012 standards, 6 some Program operators

still face challenges with fully implementing the suite of changes. The flexibilities in this

rule provide relief to these Program operators allowing them to successfully offer

wholesome and appealing meals to students.

5 Standing, Kim, Joe Gasper, Jamee Riley, Laurie May, Frank Bennici, Adam Chu, and Sujata Dixit-Joshi. Special

Nutrition Program Operations Study: State and School Food Authority Policies and Practices for School Meals
Programs School Year 2012-13. Project Officer: John R. Endahl. Prepared by Westat for the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, October 2016; J. Murdoch et al. (2016). Special Nutrition Program Operations
Study, SY 2013-14 Report. Prepared by 2M Research Services, LLC. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Food and Nutrition Service. Project Officers: Toija Riggins and John Endahl.
6 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Bridging the Gap Release on School Meals Perceptions in Childhood Obesity.

September 2013. http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2014/06/bridging-the-gap-s-work-on-childhood-obesity.html

40
USDA is committed to nutrition science but also understands the importance of practical

requirements for Program operators to successfully operate the Child Nutrition Programs.

The changes set forth in this rule still show progress in school meal nutrition, and

children will continue to be offered and exposed to wholesome school meals to facilitate

nutritious choices in the future. Further, we do not anticipate this final rule will deter the

significant progress made to date 7 by State and local operators, USDA, and industry

manufacturers to achieve healthy, palatable meals for students. The certainty this rule

provides around the changes to the standards will provide industry the ability to commit

to reformulating products and work towards innovative solutions. These changes also

provide relief to Program operators who may be meeting the standards but still facing the

sustained challenges addressed in this final rule.

Cost Impact

Similar to the interim final rule, USDA anticipates minimal if any costs associated with

the changes to the nutrition standards for milk, grains, and sodium. The overall meal

components, macro nutrient, and calorie requirements for the lunch and breakfast

programs remain unchanged, and it is the Program operators’ option to use the milk

flexibility or exceed the minimum whole grain-rich and sodium standards established in

this final rule. These changes are also promulgated in the context of significant progress

made to date by State and local operators, USDA, and food manufacturers to achieve

healthy, appealing meals for students.

7 FNS National Data Bank Administrative Data: 99.8% of lunches served in fiscal year (FY) 2017 received the

performance based reimbursement for compliance with the meal standards. This includes lunches served in SFAs
granted whole grain exemptions.

41
Local operators struggling with one or all of these requirements are expected to benefit

from the more flexible nutrition standards and be better able to balance the service of

wholesome meals with availability of current and future resources for preparing

appealing meals. The added flexibility for the milk and grain requirements and the

additional time to implement sodium Target 2 are expected to provide certainty for

Program operators to effectively procure food to develop wholesome and appealing

menus.

Milk Flexibility

As stated in the interim final rule, there may be some cases in which flavored, low-fat

milk is slightly more expensive and for some it might be slightly less expensive than the

varieties currently permitted in the 2012 meal standards rule, but any overall difference in

cost is likely to be minimal. The requirement that unflavored milk be offered at each

school meal service is not expected to impact cost. Unflavored milk was a popular

offering prior to the updated meal standards. In SY 2009-2010, the most commonly

offered milks were unflavored, low-fat (73 percent of all daily NSLP menus) and

flavored, low-fat (63 percent).Whole milk was offered in fewer than five percent of all

daily menus. 8 Given that unflavored milk was already a part of the majority of school

meal menus prior to the new standards, the requirement to offer unflavored along with

flavored milk is not anticipated to be an additional burden to Program operators and is

8
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Research and Analysis, School
Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study IV, Vol. I: School Foodservice Operations, School Environments, and
Meals Offered and Served, by Mary Kay Fox, Elizabeth Condon, Mary Kay Crepinsek, et al. Project
Officer, Fred Lesnett Alexandria, VA: November 2012

42
likely a practice Program operators have already incorporated to satisfy the variety

requirement.

Whole Grain-Rich Flexibility

The changes in this final rule provide Program operators the flexibility to offer some non-

whole grain-rich products that are appealing to students without the administrative

burden of the exemption process. The requirement that at least half of the weekly grains

offered in NSLP and SBP be whole grain-rich may provide savings for some Program

operators facing challenges procuring certain whole grain-rich products; however, we

expect that as more products become available, any differential costs associated with

whole grain-rich and non-whole grain-rich products will normalize in the market. The

availability of whole grain-rich products through USDA Foods and the commercial

market has increased significantly since the implementation of the 2012 meal standards

and continues to progress, providing new and affordable options for local operators to

integrate into menus. Finally, due to the wide variation in local adoption of this

flexibility, any overall savings are likely minimal.

Sodium Flexibility

This final rule extends Sodium Target 1 through school year 2023-2024 and requires

compliance with Sodium Target 2 in school year 2024-2025. This decision allows more

time to develop products that meet the rule’s standards and provides industry with the

certainty needed to continue to develop new appealing products. This sodium reduction

timeline allows for the opportunity for any potential impacts to the school meal programs

43
from the updated DRI report and the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to be

considered. The extension of Target 1 and the resulting delay of the implementation of

Target 2 to SY 2024-2025 provide adequate time to accommodate any potential changes,

including regulatory adjustments to incorporate updated scientific recommendations.

USDA recognizes the need for sodium reduction in school meals and is still retaining

Target 2. USDA anticipates that Program operators will continue their efforts to reduce

sodium in school meals while industry will continue to work towards lower sodium

formulations. We do not anticipate any additional costs associated with this change as it

allows additional time for Program operators and industry to reduce sodium levels in

meals. 9

Overview of Public Comments and USDA Response

There were about 20 comment submissions that provided input on risks or benefits of the

interim final rule. The American Public Health Association submitted a form letter

representing 15 individuals who claimed the USDA underestimated the reduced health

benefits. They expressed concern that the flexibilities could lower the estimated health

benefits over time. They indicated that the Economic Summary does not provide a

sufficiently thorough assessment of lost benefits and concluded that, in the final rule,

9 In the RIA for the final rule, Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (77 FR
4088), meeting the first sodium target was not estimated as a separate cost due to the fact that the first target was meant
to be met using food currently available when the target went into effect in SY 2014-2015 (or by making minimal
changes to the foods offered). While the regulatory impact analyses did not estimate a separate cost to implement
Sodium Target 1, it did factor in higher labor costs for producing meals that meet all the meal standards at full
implementation to factor in the costs of schools replacing packaged goods to food prepared from scratch. Over 5 years,
the final rule estimated that total SFAs costs would increase by $1.6 billion to meet all standards. The cost estimate
extended only through FY 2016, two years before the final rule’s second sodium target would have taken effect. The
second sodium target was designed to be met with the help of industry changing food processing technology.

44
USDA must calculate the reduced benefit to children for any changes it makes to the

school nutrition standards related to sodium, whole grains, or flavored milk.

Similarly, the American Heart Association said USDA states in the interim final rule that

the benefits would be similar as the original RIA conducted on the 2012 rule. They

questioned how the impact could remain the same when children are served more

sodium, fewer whole grain-rich foods, and milk with higher calories and saturated fat.

They stated that USDA should recalculate the RIA and indicate the reduced health

benefit caused by these changes to the school nutrition standards.

USDA Response:

The following sections review the changes and provide additional information regarding

potential nutritional impacts.

Milk Flexibility

In this final rule, USDA will allow NSLP and SBP operators the option to offer flavored,

low-fat milk and require that unflavored milk be offered at each meal service. The

flavored milk flexibility will be extended to beverages for sale during the school day, and

will also apply in the SMP and CACFP for participants ages 6 years and older.

As noted in the interim final rule, the regulatory impact analyses for the final rule,

Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (77 FR

4088), did not estimate the health benefits associated with specific changes in meal

45
components such as the exclusion of flavored, low-fat milk. USDA’s decision to allow

flavored low-fat milk reflects the concerns of declining milk consumption and the

importance of the key nutrients provided by milk. 10 Menu planners must make necessary

adjustments in the weekly menu to account for the additional calories and fat content

associated with offering flavored low-fat milk because this final rule does not change the

upper caloric and fat limits specified in the 2012 regulations. In addition, the requirement

to offer unflavored milk at each meal service ensures students will have access to a

choice in milk types and also prevents schools from only offering different flavored milk

types to satisfy the milk variety requirement. USDA estimates the nutritional impact of

allowing flavored, low-fat milk to be minimal with the added calories and fat to be

managed within the upper caloric and fat limits. Further, student intake of key nutrients

provided through milk will increase if milk consumption increases.

Whole Grain-Rich Flexibility

The interim final rule retains through SY 2018-2019 the State agency’s discretion to

grant whole grain-rich exemptions to school food authorities that demonstrate hardship.

School food authorities receiving an exemption must offer at least half of the weekly

grains as whole grain-rich.

Starting in SY 2019-2020, this final rule will require that at least half of the weekly

grains offered in the NSLP and SBP meet the whole grain-rich criteria specified in FNS

guidance, and the remaining grain items offered must be enriched. This decision was

10 https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-11-30/pdf/2017-25799.pdf

46
made to reduce Program operator burden while still providing children access to whole

grain-rich items. The requirement to offer all whole grain-rich items was never fully

implemented due to the exemption process, and about 20 percent of school food

authorities still face challenges and apply for exemptions (over 4,000 school food

authorities for SY 2017-2018). 11 The most commonly requested items for exemption

were pasta, tortillas, biscuits, and grits. While it is important to recognize the existing

challenges with some whole grain-rich items, the vast majority (80 percent) of school

food authorities strived to meet the requirement and did not request exemptions in SY

2017-2018. The impact of reducing the requirement from all grains offered to half the

grains offered as whole grain-rich recognizes the importance of including whole grains in

children’s diets without increasing operational burden.

The exemption process has been in place since the requirement for all grains to be whole

grain-rich went into effect in SY 2014-2015. This exemption process placed a burden on

Program operators and created uncertainty for stakeholders. As noted above, the majority

of the exemption requests were for a few items and the process to apply for an exemption

varied by State. Retaining the requirement that at least half the grains are whole grain-

rich is a familiar requirement for Program operators as it was in place for two years

before the requirement shifted to all grains offered be whole grain-rich. USDA believes

that the requirement for half the grains to be whole grain-rich is to be viewed as a

minimum amount and Program operators will likely continue to serve whole grain-rich

11 USDA informal State reported data.

47
items that have been successfully integrated into menus while allowing for the few items

that are not as successful to still be offered.

USDA does not anticipate Program operators will reduce the amount of whole grain-rich

offerings if they already exceed the retained standard, although that is a possibility.

Rather, USDA believes that this change will allow the time necessary for more palatable

and widely available whole grain-rich items to continue to be integrated into menus.

USDA does not have evidence that setting the whole grain-rich requirement to a

percentage greater than half and less than all grains will successfully address Program

operator concerns. Reinstating the requirement that half of grains must be whole grain-

rich is familiar to Program operators and provides the flexibility for some Program

operators to integrate palatable whole grain-rich items into their menus while still serving

items that are appealing to the students.

USDA recognizes that re-implementing the whole grain-rich requirement in place from

SY 2012-2013 through SY 2013-2014 will result in some offered grain items not

transitioning to whole grain-rich, and that children may not receive some key nutrients

associated with whole grain-rich items. However, this rule will retain the requirement that

the grains that are not whole must be enriched.

As discussed above, the vast majority of schools are expected to meet the whole-grain-

rich requirements in SY 2017-2018 and did not request exemptions, demonstrating that

the majority of schools are moving toward meeting the whole grain-rich standard. This

48
rule, by continuing to require that at least half of the offered grains items be whole grain-

rich, will continue to ensure that children receive whole grain-rich products as part of

their school meals. The specific flexibilities in this final rule will ease Program operator

burden while ensuring the majority of the changes resulting from the 2012 regulation

remain intact. There are select products that are difficult to prepare, procure, or do not

appeal to students that make it challenging to meet the requirement that all weekly grains

offered must be whole grain-rich. Industry has worked and continues to work diligently

to increase the number of products reformulated to be whole grain-rich while still

appealing to students. While this shows significant progress, the continued use of waivers

and challenges faced by Program operators to serve all whole grain-rich items persisted.

Moving back to the requirement that at least half of the grains offered be whole grain-rich

provides the stability for Program operators to add slowly and successfully more whole

grain-rich items into menus without undergoing a burdensome exemption process. The

requirement for at least half of the grain offered to be whole grain rich is familiar to

Program operators and USDA does not have any evidence that setting the standard at a

higher percentage would successfully alleviate the challenges. Finally, this requirement is

the minimum limit, providing Program operators the choice to exceed this and offer more

whole grain-rich items as they develop wholesome and appealing menus.

USDA believes this change will allow more time for industry to develop appealing whole

grain-rich items as well as provide more opportunities for training and technical

assistance to better incorporate whole grain-rich items. Additionally, USDA Foods,

49
which makes up about 15 to 20 percent of the food items offered on an average school

day, continues to develop new whole grain-rich products each year.

Re-instating the requirement that at least half of the grains offered be whole grain-rich

will provide Program operators the local control necessary to continue to serve items that

meet local preferences while still exposing students to nutritious whole grain-rich

products.

Sodium Flexibility

The interim final rule retained Sodium Target 1 in the NSLP and SBP through SY 2018-

2019 (7 CFR 210.10(f)(3) and 7 CFR 220.8(f), respectively), and requested comments on

the long-term availability of this flexibility. It also retained Target 2 and the final target

as part of the sodium reduction timeline. This final rule will extend Target 1 through the

end of SY 2023-2024, require compliance with Sodium Target 2 starting in SY 2024-

2025, and eliminate the Final Target that would have gone into effect in SY 2022-2023.

USDA is responding to the challenges associated with reducing the sodium level in

school meals.

The impact of extending Sodium Target 1 through SY 2023-2024 increases the average

daily sodium level permitted by about 55-70mg for breakfast and 300-340mg for lunch

depending on the age/grade group compared to Sodium Target 2. Sodium Target 1 is

about 90 to 93 percent of the daily upper intake level for both lunch and breakfast.

50
Table 1: Baseline Sodium and Target Levels for SBP and NSLP combined compared to
Recommended Daily Intake Level

Total School meals (Breakfast + Lunch Recommended Daily Sodium


Baseline Average Sodium Target) (mg) Intake Level (mg)
Sodium Level as
offered before Tolerable
Age/Grade
2012 Regulations Final Upper
Group
(mg) Target 1 Target 2 Target1 Child age Level

K-5 1,950 1,770 1,420 1,070 4 to 8 1,900

6-8 2,149 1,960 1,570 1,180 9 to 13 2,200

9-12 2,274 2,060 1,650 1,240 14-18 2,300


% of Daily Tolerable Upper Level
K-5 102.6% 93.2% 74.7% 56.3%
6-8 97.7% 89.1% 71.4% 53.6%
9-12 98.9% 89.6% 71.7% 53.9%
1TheFinal Target is presented for analysis purposes only as this rule will remove the Final Target that would have gone into effect in
school year 2022-2023.

The average baseline sodium levels for school meals prior to the updated standards made

up 98 percent to over 100 percent of the tolerable upper level of daily sodium intake.

This extension of Target 1 and delay in Target 2 provides time for the DRI report and the

2020 Dietary Guidelines to be published, and for USDA to consider the updated

information and potential impact on school meals. This timeline allows for any

adjustments to be made, including regulatory changes, if needed, to incorporate any

updated scientific information regarding sodium. USDA is retaining Target 2 recognizing

the need for further sodium reduction beyond Target 1. The additional time also allows

51
for Program operators to slowly introduce lower sodium foods to students and for

industry to develop consistent lower sodium products that are palatable for students.

School children are consuming a considerable amount of sodium, and school meals

contribute to their daily total. On average, most students consume 14 percent of their

daily sodium intake at breakfast, 31 percent at lunch, 39 percent at dinner, and the

remaining 16 percent through snacks. More than 9 in 10 U.S. school children eat more

sodium than the age-specific Tolerable Upper Intake Level established by the Food and

Nutrition Board, NASEM (over 130 to 150 percent of the daily recommended amount). 12

It is important that the sodium level in school meals is gradually reduced to assist in

introducing children to lower sodium foods. Delaying the implementation of Sodium

Target 1 provides the certainty for industry members to continue to develop and test

lower sodium foods for both the school meal programs and the general public.

Sodium Target 2 makes up about 71 to 75 percent of total upper intake level. This

continued reduction balances the need for strong nutrition standards with the operational

concerns and student acceptance of school meals. The elimination of the Final Target will

allow 55-70mg more sodium for breakfast and 300-340mg for lunch. The Final Target

would have made up about 54 to 56 percent of the total upper intake level.

12 Sodium Intake among US School-Aged Children: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012

Quader, Zerleen S. et al. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , Volume 117 , Issue 1 , 39 - 47.e5

52
The extension of Target 1 and delay in Target 2 provide the additional time needed for

USDA to assess the DRI report and the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which

are scheduled for release at the end for 2020. Extending the Sodium Target 1 through SY

2023-2024 allows USDA to incorporate the latest scientific evidence into the school meal

standards, including time needed for potential regulatory changes.

As noted earlier, we understand that there has been significant progress to date with

sodium reduction in school meals. The additional time this rule provides will also enable

Program operators to continue to progress, while allowing industry partners to continue

to develop innovative solutions to lower sodium foods that can be served in the school

meal programs.

Other Comments

An individual commenter said strict nutrition standards without reimbursement from the

USDA impose high costs to feed children healthy meals in small schools, and some

participating schools are considering leaving the program due to a low frequency of low-

income children buying school lunch, resulting in a significant loss of revenue. The

commenter concluded that this rule will increase student participation in purchasing

school meals and thus help schools compensate for loss of revenue and high cost

expenditures.

USDA believes that adding flexibility to the nutrition standards will allow Program

operators additional time to work with available products to provide wholesome and

53
appealing meals to students within available resources. This will help increase student

consumption of meals and reduce waste and revenue loss. While the changes resulting

from the 2012 regulations may not have resulted in long-term impacts for participation in

some schools, 13 USDA understands there is a wide variation in school food authorities

and challenges encountered by Program operators. The changes in this final rule will

provide the local level control necessary to successfully operate the school meal

programs.

Executive Order 13771

This final rule is an E.O. 13771 deregulatory action. It alleviates the milk, whole grain-

rich, and sodium requirements in the Child Nutrition Program and provides flexibilities

similar to those currently available as a result only of appropriations legislation in effect

for SY 2017-2018 and administrative actions.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612) requires Agencies to analyze the

impact of rulemaking on small entities and consider alternatives that would minimize any

significant impacts on a substantial number of small entities. Because this final rule adds

flexibility to current Child Nutrition Program regulations, the changes implemented

13 Impact of the 2010 US Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act on School Breakfast and Lunch Participation Rates Between

2008 and 2015 Nicole Vaudrin MS, RD, Kristen Lloyd MPH, Michael J. Yedidia PhD, MPH, Michael Todd PhD,
and Punam Ohri-Vachaspati PhD, RD.

54
through this final rule are expected to benefit small entities operating meal programs

under 7 CFR parts 210, 215, 220, and 226. The impacts are not expected to be significant.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), Public Law 104-4,

establishes requirements for Federal agencies to assess the effects of their regulatory

actions on State, local, and Tribal governments and the private sector. Under section 202

of the UMRA, the Department generally must prepare a written statement, including a

cost benefit analysis, for proposed and final rules with “Federal mandates” that may

result in expenditures by State, local or Tribal governments, in the aggregate, or the

private sector, of $100 million or more in any one year. When such a statement is needed

for a rule, Section 205 of the UMRA generally requires the Department to identify and

consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and adopt the most cost effective

or least burdensome alternative that achieves the objectives of the rule.

This final rule does not contain Federal mandates (under the regulatory provisions of

Title II of the UMRA) for State, local and Tribal governments or the private sector of

$100 million or more in any one year. Thus, the rule is not subject to the requirements of

sections 202 and 205 of the UMRA.

Executive Order 12372

The NSLP, SMP, SBP, and the CACFP are listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic

Assistance under NSLP No. 10.555, SMP No. 10.556, SBP No. 10.553, and CACFP No.

55
10.558, respectively, and are subject to Executive Order 12372, which requires

intergovernmental consultation with State and local officials. Since the Child Nutrition

Programs are State-administered, USDA’s FNS Regional Offices have formal and

informal discussions with State and local officials, including representatives of Indian

Tribal Organizations, on an ongoing basis regarding program requirements and

operations. This provides FNS with the opportunity to receive regular input from

program administrators and contributes to the development of feasible program

requirements.

Federalism Summary Impact Statement

Executive Order 13132 requires Federal agencies to consider the impact of their

regulatory actions on State and local governments. Where such actions have federalism

implications, agencies are directed to provide a statement for inclusion in the preamble to

the regulations describing the agency's considerations in terms of the three categories

called for under Section (6)(b)(2)(B) of Executive Order 13132.

The Department has considered the impact of this final rule on State and local

governments and has determined that this rule does not have federalism implications.

Therefore, under section 6(b) of the Executive Order, a federalism summary is not

required.

56
Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform

This final rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform.

This rule is intended to have preemptive effect with respect to any State or local laws,

regulations or policies which conflict with its provisions or which would otherwise

impede its full and timely implementation. This rule is not intended to have retroactive

effect. Prior to any judicial challenge to the provisions of the final rule, all applicable

administrative procedures must be exhausted.

Civil Rights Impact Analysis

FNS has reviewed this final rule in accordance with USDA Regulation 4300-4, “Civil

Rights Impact Analysis,” to identify any major civil rights impacts the rule might have on

program participants on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, sex, or disability.

After a careful review of the rule’s intent and provisions, FNS has determined that this

rule is not expected to limit or reduce the ability of protected classes of individuals to

participate in the NSLP, SMP, SBP, and CACFP or have a disproportionate adverse

impact on the protected classes. The Civil Rights Impact Analysis is available for public

inspection under the Supporting Documentation tab in docket FNS-2017-0021.

Executive Order 13175

This rule has been reviewed in accordance with the requirements of Executive Order

13175, "Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments." Executive

Order 13175 requires Federal agencies to consult and coordinate with tribes on a

57
government-to-government basis on policies that have tribal implications, including

regulations, legislative comments or proposed legislation, and other policy statements or

actions that have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian tribes, on the

relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of

power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes.

FNS has assessed the impact of this final rule on Indian tribes and determined that this

rule does not, to the best of its knowledge, have tribal implications that require tribal

consultation under E.O. 13175. If a Tribe requests consultation, FNS will work with the

Office of Tribal Relations to ensure meaningful consultation is provided where changes,

additions, and modifications identified herein are not expressly mandated by Congress.

Tribal representatives were informed about this rulemaking on March 14, 2018.

Paperwork Reduction Act

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chap. 35; 5 CFR part 1320) requires

the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve all collections of information

by a Federal agency before they can be implemented. Respondents are not required to

respond to any collection of information unless it displays a current valid OMB control

number. The provisions of this final rule do not impose new information collection

58
requirements subject to approval by the OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of

1994.

E-Government Act Compliance

The Department is committed to complying with the E-Government Act to promote the

use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide increased opportunities

for citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.

List of Subjects

7 CFR Part 210

Grant programs-education, Grant programs–health, Infants and children, Nutrition,

Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, School breakfast and lunch

programs, Surplus agricultural commodities.

7 CFR Part 215

Food assistance programs, Grant programs – education, Grant program – health, Infants

and children, Milk, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

7 CFR Part 220

Grant programs-education, Grant programs–health, Infants and children, Nutrition,

Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, School breakfast and lunch programs.

7 CFR Part 226

Accounting, Aged, Day care, Food assistance programs, Grant programs, Grant

programs—health, American Indians, Individuals with disabilities, Infants and children,

59
Intergovernmental relations, Loan programs, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements,

Surplus agricultural commodities.

Accordingly, 7 CFR parts 210, 215, 220 and 226 are amended as follows:

PART 210-NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM

1. The authority citation for part 210 continues to read as follows:

Authority: 42 U.S.C. 1751-1760, 1779.

2. In § 210.10:

a. In paragraph (c) introductory text, revise the table;

b. In paragraph (c)(2)(i)(A), second sentence, remove the term “Appendix A” and add in

its place with the word “appendix A”; and

b. Revise paragraphs (c)(2)(iv)(B), (d)(1)(i), and (f)(3).

The revisions read as follows:

§210.10 Meal requirements for lunches and requirements for afterschool snacks.

*****

(c) ***

Lunch Meal Pattern

Grades K-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12

Food Components Amount of Fooda per Week

(minimum per day)

Fruits (cups)b 21⁄2 ( 1⁄2 ) 21⁄2 ( 1⁄2 ) 5 (1)

60
Vegetables (cups)b 33⁄4 ( 3⁄4 ) 33⁄4 ( 3⁄4 ) 5 (1)

Dark greenc 1
⁄2 1
⁄2 1
⁄2

Red/Orangec 3
⁄4 3
⁄4 11⁄4

Beans and peas 1


⁄2 1
⁄2 1
⁄2
(legumes)c

Starchyc 1
⁄2 1
⁄2 1
⁄2

Otherc d 1
⁄2 1
⁄2 3
⁄4

Additional Vegetables to 1 1 11⁄2


Reach Totale

Grains (oz eq)f 8-9 (1) 8-10 (1) 10-12 (2)

Meats/Meat Alternates (oz 8-10 (1) 9-10 (1) 10-12 (2)


eq)

Fluid milk (cups)g 5 (1) 5 (1) 5 (1)

Other Specifications: Daily Amount Based on the Average for a 5-Day Week

Min-max calories (kcal)h 550-650 600-700 750-850

Saturated fat (% of total <10 <10 <10


calories)h

Sodium Target 2 (mg)h i ≤935 ≤1,035 ≤1,080

Trans fathj Nutrition label or manufacturer specifications must


indicate zero grams of trans fat per serving.

a
Food items included in each group and subgroup and amount equivalents. Minimum creditable serving is
1
⁄8 cup.

61
b
One quarter-cup of dried fruit counts as 1⁄2 cup of fruit; 1 cup of leafy greens counts as 1⁄2 cup of
vegetables. No more than half of the fruit or vegetable offerings may be in the form of juice. All juice must
be 100% full-strength.
c
Larger amounts of these vegetables may be served.
d
This category consists of “Other vegetables” as defined in paragraph (c)(2)(iii)(E) of this section. For the
purposes of the NSLP, the “Other vegetables” requirement may be met with any additional amounts from
the dark green, red/orange, and beans/peas (legumes) vegetable subgroups as defined in paragraph
(c)(2)(iii) of this section.
e
Any vegetable subgroup may be offered to meet the total weekly vegetable requirement.
f
At least half of the grains offered weekly must be whole grain-rich as specified in FNS guidance, and the
remaining grain items offered must be enriched.
g
All fluid milk must be fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1 percent fat or less). Milk may be unflavored or
flavored provided that unflavored milk is offered at each meal service.
h
The average daily calories for a 5-day school week menu must be within the range (at least the minimum
and no more than the maximum values). Discretionary sources of calories (solid fats and added sugars) may
be added to the meal pattern if within the specifications for calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.
Foods of minimal nutritional value and fluid milk with fat content greater than 1 percent are not allowed.
i
Sodium Target 1 is effective from July 1, 2014 (SY 2014-2015) through June 30, 2024 (SY 2023-2024).
Sodium Target 2 (shown) is effective July 1, 2024 (SY 2024-2025).
j
Food products and ingredients must contain zero grams of trans fat (less than 0.5 grams) per serving.
*****

(2)***

(iv)***

(B) Daily and weekly servings. The grains component is based on minimum daily

servings plus total servings over a 5-day school week. Schools serving lunch 6 or 7 days

per week must increase the weekly grains quantity by approximately 20 percent (1/5) for

each additional day. When schools operate less than 5 days per week, they may decrease

the weekly quantity by approximately 20 percent (1/5) for each day less than 5. The

servings for biscuits, rolls, muffins, and other grain/bread varieties are specified in FNS

guidance. At least half of the grains offered weekly must meet the whole grain-rich

62
criteria specified in FNS guidance, and the remaining grain items offered must be

enriched.

*****

(d)***

(1)***

(i) Schools must offer students a variety (at least two different options) of fluid milk. All

milk must be fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1 percent fat or less). Milk with higher fat

content is not allowed. Low-fat or fat-free lactose-free and reduced-lactose fluid milk

may also be offered. Milk may be unflavored or flavored provided that unflavored milk is

offered at each meal service.

*****

(f)***

(3) Sodium. School lunches offered to each age/grade group must meet, on average over

the school week, the levels of sodium specified in the following table within the

established deadlines:

63
National School
Sodium Timeline & Limits
Lunch Program

Target 1: Target 2:
July 1, 2014 July 1, 2024
Age/Grade Group
(SY 2014-2015) (SY 2024-2025)
(mg) (mg)

K-5 < 1,230 < 935


6-8 < 1,360 < 1,035
9-12 < 1,420 < 1,080

*****
§210.11 [Amended]

3. In paragraphs (m)(1)(ii), (m)(2)(ii), and (m)(3)(ii), remove the words “from July 1,

2018 through June 30, 2019, school year 2018-2019” before the semicolon.

PART 215 – SPECIAL MILK PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN

4. The authority citation for part 215 continues to read as follows:

Authority: 42 U.S.C. 1772 and 1779.

§215.7a [Amended]

5. In paragraph (a)(3), remove the words “from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019

(school year 2018-2019)”.

*****

64
PART 220 – SCHOOL BREAKFAST PROGRAM

6. The authority citation for part 220 continues to read as follows:

Authority: 42 U.S.C. 1773, 1779, unless otherwise noted.

7. In §220.8:

a. In paragraph (c) introductory text, revise the table; and

b. Revise paragraphs (c)(2)(iv)(B), (d), and (f)(3).

The revisions read as follows:

§220.8 Meal requirements for breakfasts.

*****

(c) ***

Breakfast Meal Pattern

Grades K-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12

Food Components Amount of Fooda per Week

(minimum per day)

Fruits (cups)b c 5 (1) 5 (1) 5 (1)

Vegetables (cups)b c 0 0 0

Dark green 0 0 0

Red/Orange 0 0 0

Beans and peas 0 0 0


(legumes)

Starchy 0 0 0

Other 0 0 0

65
Grains (oz eq)d 7-10 (1) 8-10 (1) 9-10 (1)

Meats/Meat Alternates (oz 0 0 0


eq)e

Fluid milk (cups) f 5 (1) 5 (1) 5 (1)

Other Specifications: Daily Amount Based on the Average for a 5-Day Week

Min-max calories (kcal)g h 350-500 400-550 450-600

Saturated fat (% of total <10 <10 <10


calories)h

Sodium Target 2 (mg)h i ≤485 ≤535 ≤570

Trans fath j Nutrition label or manufacturer specifications must


indicate zero grams of trans fat per serving.

a
Food items included in each group and subgroup and amount equivalents. Minimum creditable serving is
1
⁄8 cup.
b
One quarter cup of dried fruit counts as 1⁄2 cup of fruit; 1 cup of leafy greens counts as 1⁄2 cup of
vegetables. No more than half of the fruit or vegetable offerings may be in the form of juice. All juice must
be 100% full-strength.
c
Schools must offer 1 cup of fruit daily and 5 cups of fruit weekly. Vegetables may be substituted for fruits,
but the first two cups per week of any such substitution must be from the dark green, red/orange, beans and
peas (legumes) or “Other vegetables” subgroups, as defined in §210.10(c)(2)(iii) of this chapter.
d
At least half of the grains offered weekly must be whole grain-rich as specified in FNS guidance, and the
remaining grain items offered must be enriched. Schools may substitute 1 oz. eq. of meat/meat alternate for
1 oz. eq. of grains after the minimum daily grains requirement is met.
e
There is no meat/meat alternate requirement.
f
All fluid milk must be fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1 percent fat or less). Milk may be unflavored or flavored
provided that unflavored milk is offered at each meal service.
g
The average daily calories for a 5-day school week menu must be within the range (at least the minimum
and no more than the maximum values).
h
Discretionary sources of calories (solid fats and added sugars) may be added to the meal pattern if within
the specifications for calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Foods of minimal nutritional value and
fluid milk with fat content greater than 1 percent milk fat are not allowed.
i
Sodium Target 1 is effective from July 1, 2014 (SY 2014-2015) through June 30, 2024 (SY 2023-2024).
Sodium Target 2 (shown) is effective July 1, 2024 (SY 2024-2025).
j
Food products and ingredients must contain zero grams of trans fat (less than 0.5 grams) per serving.
*****

(2)***

66
(iv)***

(B) Daily and weekly servings. The grains component is based on minimum daily

servings plus total servings over a 5-day school week. Schools serving breakfast 6 or 7

days per week must increase the weekly grains quantity by approximately 20 percent

(1⁄5) for each additional day. When schools operate less than 5 days per week, they may

decrease the weekly quantity by approximately 20 percent (1⁄5) for each day less than 5.

The servings for biscuits, rolls, muffins, and other grain/bread varieties are specified in

FNS guidance. At least half of the grains offered weekly must meet the whole grain-rich

criteria specified in FNS guidance, and the remaining grain items offered must be

enriched.

*****

(d) Fluid milk requirement. Breakfast must include a serving of fluid milk as a beverage

or on cereal or used in part for each purpose. Schools must offer students a variety (at

least two different options) of fluid milk. All fluid milk must be fat-free (skim) or low-fat

(1percent fat or less). Milk with higher fat content is not allowed. Low-fat or fat-free

lactose-free and reduced-lactose fluid milk may also be offered. Milk may be unflavored

or flavored provided that unflavored milk is offered at each meal service. Schools must

also comply with other applicable fluid milk requirements in §210.10(d)(1) through (4) of

this chapter.

*****

(f)***

67
(3) Sodium. School breakfasts offered to each age/grade group must meet, on average

over the school week, the levels of sodium specified in the following table within the

established deadlines:

School Breakfast
Sodium Timeline & Limits
Program

Target 1: Target 2:
Age/Grade July 1, 2014 July 1, 2024
Group (SY 2014-2015) (SY 2024-2025)
(mg) (mg)

K-5 < 540 < 485

6-8 < 600 < 535

9-12 < 640 < 570

*****

PART 226 – CHILD AND ADULT CARE FOOD PROGRAM

8. The authority citation for part 226 continues to read as follows:

Authority: Secs. 9, 11, 14, 16, and 17, Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, as

amended (42 U.S.C. 1758, 1759a, 1762a, 1765 and 1766).

§226.20 [Amended]

68
9. In paragraphs (a)(1)(iii) and (iv), remove the words “from July 1, 2018, through June

30, 2019 (school year 2018-2019)”; and

10. In paragraphs (c)(1), (2), and (3), revise the tables to read as follows:

§226.20 Requirements for meals.

*****

(c) * * *

(1) * * *

Child And Adult Care Food Program


Breakfast
Select the Appropriate Components for a Reimbursable Meal
Minimum Quantities
Ages 13-182
Food Components (at-risk
Ages Ages Ages afterschool Adult
and Food Items1
1-2 3-5 6-12 programs and Participants
emergency
shelters)
4 fluid 6 fluid 8 fluid 8 fluid
Fluid Milk3 8 fluid ounces
ounces ounces ounces ounces
Vegetables, fruits, or
portions of both4 ¼ cup ½ cup ½ cup ½ cup ½ cup
Grains (oz eq)5,6,7
Whole grain-
rich or
enriched ½ slice ½ slice 1 slice 1 slice 2 slices
bread
Whole grain-
rich or
enriched bread
½ serving ½ serving 1 serving 1 serving 2 servings
product, such
as biscuit, roll,
or muffin
Whole grain-
rich, enriched,
or fortified
¼ cup ¼ cup ½ cup ½ cup 1 cup
cooked
breakfast
cereal8, cereal

69
grain, and/or
pasta

Whole grain-
rich, enriched
or fortified
ready-to-eat
breakfast
cereal (dry,
cold)8,9
Flakes or rounds ½ cup ½ cup 1 cup 1 cup 2 cups
Puffed cereal ¾ cup ¾ cup 1 ¼ cup 1 ¼ cup 2 ½ cup
Granola ⅛ cup ⅛ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup ½ cup
Endnotes:
1
Must serve all three components for a reimbursable meal. Offer versus serve is an option for at-risk afterschool
participants.
2
Larger portion sizes than specified may need to be served to children 13 through 18 years old to meet their
nutritional needs.
3
Must be unflavored whole milk for children age one. Must be unflavored low-fat (1 percent fat or less) or
unflavored fat-free (skim) milk for children two through five years old. Must be low-fat (1 percent fat or less) or fat-
free (skim) milk for children six years old and older and adults, and may be unflavored or flavored. For adult
participants, 6 ounces (weight) or ¾ cup (volume) of yogurt may be used to meet the equivalent of 8 ounces of fluid
milk once per day when yogurt is not served as a meat alternate in the same meal.
4
Pasteurized full-strength juice may only be used to meet the vegetable or fruit requirement at one meal, including
snack, per day.
5
At least one serving per day, across all eating occasions, must be whole grain-rich. Grain-based desserts do not
count towards meeting the grains requirement.
6
Meat and meat alternates may be used to meet the entire grains requirement a maximum of three times a week. One
ounce of meat and meat alternates is equal to one ounce equivalent of grains.
7
Beginning October 1, 2019, ounce equivalents are used to determine the quantity of creditable grains.
8
Breakfast cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce (no more than 21.2 grams sucrose and
other sugars per 100 grams of dry cereal).
9
Beginning October 1, 2019, the minimum serving size specified in this section for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals
must be served. Until October 1, 2019, the minimum serving size for any type of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal is ¼
cup for children ages 1-2; ⅓ cup for children ages 3-5; ¾ cup for children ages 6-12, and 1 ½ cups for adult
participants.

(2)* * *

Child And Adult Care Food Program


Lunch and Supper
Select the Appropriate Components for a Reimbursable Meal
Minimum Quantities
Food Components and Ages 13-
Ages Ages Ages Adult
Food Items1 182
1-2 3-5 6-12 (at-risk
Participants

70
afterschool
programs
and
emergency
shelters)
4 fluid 6 fluid 8 fluid 8 fluid 8 fluid
Fluid Milk3
ounces ounces ounces ounces ounces4
Meat/meat alternates
(edible portion as
served)
Lean meat, 1½
1 ounce 2 ounces 2 ounces 2 ounces
poultry, or fish ounces
Tofu, soy
products, or 1½
1 ounce 2 ounces 2 ounces 2 ounces
alternate protein ounces
products5

Cheese 1 ounce 2 ounces 2 ounces 2 ounces
ounces
Large egg ½ ¾ 1 1 1
Cooked dry
¼ cup ⅜ cup ½ cup ½ cup ½ cup
beans or peas
Peanut butter or
soy nut butter or
2 Tbsp 3 Tbsp 4 Tbsp 4 Tbsp 4 Tbsp
other nut or seed
butters
Yogurt, plain or
flavored 4 ounces 6 ounces 8 ounces 8 ounces 8 ounces
or or or or or
unsweetened or ½ cup ¾ cup 1 cup 1 cup 1 cup
sweetened6
The following
may be used to
meet no more
than 50% of the
requirement:
Peanuts, soy
nuts, tree
nuts, or ½ ounce ¾ ounce = 1 ounce = 1 ounce 1 ounce
seeds, as = 50% 50% 50% = 50% = 50%
listed in
program
guidance, or
an equivalent
quantity of
any
combination

71
of the above
meat/meat
alternates (1
ounce of
nuts/seeds =
1 ounce of
cooked lean
meat,
poultry, or
fish)
Vegetables7 ⅛ cup ¼ cup ½ cup ½ cup ½ cup

Fruits7,8 ⅛ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup ½ cup

Grains (oz eq)9,10


Whole grain-rich
½ slice ½ slice 1 slice 1 slice 2 slices
or enriched bread
Whole grain-rich
or enriched bread
product, such as ½ serving ½ serving 1 serving 1 serving 2 servings
biscuit, roll, or
muffin
Whole grain-
rich, enriched, or
fortified cooked
breakfast ¼ cup ¼ cup ½ cup ½ cup 1 cup
cereal11, cereal
grain, and/or
pasta
Endnotes:
1
Must serve all five components for a reimbursable meal. Offer versus serve is an option for at-risk afterschool and
adult participants.
2
Larger portion sizes than specified may need to be served to children 13 through 18 years old to meet their
nutritional needs.
3
Must be unflavored whole milk for children age one. Must be unflavored low-fat (1 percent fat or less) or
unflavored fat-free (skim) milk for children two through five years old. Must be low-fat (1 percent fat or less) or fat-
free (skim) milk for children six years old and older and adults, and may be unflavored or flavored. For adult
participants, 6 ounces (weight) or ¾ cup (volume) of yogurt may be used to meet the equivalent of 8 ounces of fluid
milk once per day when yogurt is not served as a meat alternate in the same meal.
4
A serving of fluid milk is optional for suppers served to adult participants.
5
Alternate protein products must meet the requirements in Appendix A to Part 226 of this chapter.
6
Yogurt must contain no more than 23 grams of total sugars per 6 ounces.
7
Pasteurized full-strength juice may only be used to meet the vegetable or fruit requirement at one meal, including
snack, per day.

72
8
A vegetable may be used to meet the entire fruit requirement. When two vegetables are served at lunch or supper,
two different kinds of vegetables must be served.
9
At least one serving per day, across all eating occasions, must be whole grain-rich. Grain-based desserts do not
count towards the grains requirement.
10
Beginning October 1, 2019, ounce equivalents are used to determine the quantity of the creditable grain.
11
Breakfast cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce (no more than 21.2 grams sucrose and
other sugars per 100 grams of dry cereal).

(3)* * *

Child And Adult Care Food Program


Snack
Select Two of the Five Components for a Reimbursable Meal
Minimum Quantities
Ages 13-182
Food Components (at-risk
Ages Ages Ages afterschool Adult
and Food Items1
1-2 3-5 6-12 programs and Participants
emergency
shelters)
4 fluid 6 fluid 8 fluid 8 fluid
Fluid Milk3 8 fluid ounces
ounces ounces ounces ounces
Meat/meat alternates
(edible portion as
served)
Lean meat,
poultry, or ½ ounce ½ ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce
fish
Tofu, soy
products, or
alternate ½ ounce ½ ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce
protein
products4
Cheese ½ ounce ½ ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce
Large egg ½ ½ ½ ½ ½
Cooked dry
⅛ cup ⅛ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup
beans or peas
Peanut butter
or soy nut
butter or other 1 Tbsp 1 Tbsp 2 Tbsp 2 Tbsp 2 Tbsp
nut or seed
butters

73
Yogurt, plain
or flavored 2 ounces 2 ounces 4 ounces 4 ounces 4 ounces
or or or or or
unsweetened ¼ cup ¼ cup ½ cup ½ cup ½ cup
or sweetened5
Peanuts, soy
nuts, tree nuts, ½ ounce ½ ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce 1 ounce
or seeds
Vegetables6 ½ cup ½ cup ¾ cup ¾ cup ½ cup

Fruits6 ½ cup ½ cup ¾ cup ¾ cup ½ cup

Grains (oz eq)7,8


Whole grain-
rich or ½ slice ½ slice 1 slice 1 slice 1 slice
enriched bread
Whole grain-
rich or
enriched bread
½ serving ½ serving 1 serving 1 serving 1 serving
product, such
as biscuit, roll,
or muffin
Whole grain-
rich, enriched,
or fortified
cooked
¼ cup ¼ cup ½ cup ½ cup ½ cup
breakfast
cereal9, cereal
grain, and/or
pasta
Whole grain-
rich, enriched,
or fortified
ready-to-eat
breakfast
cereal (dry,
cold)9,10
Flakes or rounds ½ cup ½ cup 1 cup 1 cup 1 cup
Puffed cereal ¾ cup ¾ cup 1 ¼ cup 1 ¼ cup 1 ¼ cup
Granola ⅛ cup ⅛ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup ¼ cup

74
Endnotes:
1
Select two of the five components for a reimbursable snack. Only one of the two components may be a beverage.
2
Larger portion sizes than specified may need to be served to children 13 through 18 years old to meet their
nutritional needs.
3
Must be unflavored whole milk for children age one. Must be unflavored low-fat (1 percent fat or less) or
unflavored fat-free (skim) milk for children two through five years old. Must be low-fat (1 percent fat or less) or fat-
free (skim) milk for children six years old and older and adults, and may be unflavored or flavored. For adult
participants, 6 ounces (weight) or ¾ cup (volume) of yogurt may be used to meet the equivalent of 8 ounces of fluid
milk once per day when yogurt is not served as a meat alternate in the same meal.
4
Alternate protein products must meet the requirements in Appendix A to Part 226 of this chapter.
5
Yogurt must contain no more than 23 grams of total sugars per 6 ounces.
6
Pasteurized full-strength juice may only be used to meet the vegetable or fruit requirement at one meal, including
snack, per day.
7
At least one serving per day, across all eating occasions, must be whole grain-rich. Grain-based desserts do not
count towards the grains requirement.
8
Beginning October 1, 2019, ounce equivalents are used to determine the quantity of the creditable grains.
9
Breakfast cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce (no more than 21.2 grams sucrose and
other sugars per 100 grams of dry cereal).
10
Beginning October 1, 2019, the minimum serving size specified in this section for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals
must be served. Until October 1, 2019, the minimum serving size for any type of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal is ¼
cup for children ages 1-2; ⅓ cup for children ages 3-5; and ¾ cup for children ages 6-12, children ages 13-18, and
adult participants.

*****

__________________________________ _______________
Brandon Lipps Date
Acting Deputy Under Secretary
Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services

75